Kerio Control Review

Has saved time for the members of our team who manage security but it's not optimized or set up for satellite communication

What is our primary use case?

Our client base is private yachts and on private yachts, we have different LAN connections, as well as different VLANs. Kerio Control allows us to maximize and control the different LAN connections, both from a performance and a financial standpoint.

How has it helped my organization?

The single largest component was the introduction of MyKerio and the ability to be able to remotely connect the challenge that we have with MyKerio. By yacht, I'm referring to the 1% of the 1% of the people that are out there with $50 million to $60 million yachts. They have satellite systems on board so one of the challenges that we have with MyKerio is the sensitivity to latency. What that means is that if you're on a landline like a DSL or a cellular connection, your ping time may be 20 milliseconds, but with satellite, because of the distances involved, those ping times could be 700 to even 1,100 milliseconds. This is a challenge that we have because just about any application or hardware device that is out in the market is not really designed to take that into account.

In this particular case, if we have a boat that is traveling from South Florida down to the Caribbean and the entire boat is on satellite and we need to be able to log into MyKerio for the boat, it's not optimized or set up for satellite communication. It sometimes becomes problematic in trying to connect to the vessel. Where if the entire boat, like on 4G or landline, then it's no big deal because MyKerio is optimized for that. 

That would be an area for improvement, but the benefit of it is that we can handle issues remotely. The other benefit is through a minimal amount of instruction to the boat, they can complete what I would refer to as basic tasks.

For example, if a boat is down in the Bahamas and the owner is on board, we typically have these in cellular and a landline connection and then on top of that, we'll have an owner, the crew, and guests. So in this particular case, we would want the owner on the fastest 4G connection. Then we would want to put the crew on the satellite connection, which may not be as fast. So it's just about optimizing the experience for the owner and being able to control the bandwidth.

What is most valuable?

The interface control manager where we can allocate LAN connections to certain VLANs is the most valuable feature. The other feature that's important for us is because everything is remote with MyKerio, as long as the boat has an internet connection, we can log onto the Kerio and get statistics, as well as provide support.

It's important because unlike a company where a company has an IT person on-site because these are yachts, they have a boat crew that is not necessarily "IT," so they rely upon us to provide them with their IT services. This is a platform that allows us to control and troubleshoot as necessary.

I would say about 95% to 97% of all of our support is managed remotely because of the nature of superyachts, where they're located, and the importance of the people that own them.

I have not run into any issues or complaints with regard to the firewall and intrusion detection features. I find that in this industry, the fact that those are services that are included is important. But I can't speak to the operability of it.

Because I interface the most with the boats and the crews, I've never run into an issue with the comprehensiveness of the security features.

In terms of the ease of use, if you took 15 different network professionals and told them to configure a Kerio Control, you would get 15 different configurations. Having said that, within our specific business segment, we have learned the configuration that works best for us and works best for our customers. The way that we have set it up is to not put the onus on the boat to make any changes, but if they need to make any changes they allow us to go in there and make changes. 

From my experience, I don't necessarily do the configuration on them, but I do manage them. If there's a boat that has a problem, I'm the first phone call. Most of the time I can figure it out, but what we provide as a service is that we refer to it as a virtual ETO which is an electronics and technology officer. That would be an actual IT person, but for the most part, we just encourage our customers to defer their technical queries to us and allow us to manage it for them.

It has saved time for the members of our team who manage security based on how they're using it. It has saved time in the sense that they have an integrated security solution. I think the maritime industry is moving towards a standardized security initiative because the problem is that everything within the maritime industry is based on international, not national standards. So where and how the Kerio Control will fit into that is undetermined because the IMO, International Maritime Organization, has not yet determined what those standards are going to be. It's still a work in process.

It has a VPN back to our data center but I don't think it has increased the number of VPN clients extended to those outside our environment

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using Kerio Control for four years. 

It is deployed in our office, as well as at our customer sites. Our customer sites are private superyachts.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The only stability issue that we have is with regard to the latency and using MyKerio. A potential deficiency I've encountered has had to do with the actual physical ethernet ports on the device. They seem to be very susceptive to shock. We have had to replace a few units due to that. Especially if there are devices that are POE devices. Part of it has a POE that goes out to the antenna and then there's an ethernet connection that goes back to the Kerio. We've noticed that for whatever reason, that particular device or combination don't play well together.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The way it works now, we can take an NG300 with four ports, and then we can create ports on additional switches. So the only instance that we really use an NG500 is for two reasons. One of them is processing power, and then the other one is if they actually have the requirement for different or more connections than the Kerio has.

Three people in the company, more from a customer interface perspective, and about six people in the company from a technical support perspective use Kerio Control.

We have it deployed somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 75 remotes. We will increase usage if we can increase customers. 

I would say that we're a medium-sized business. We're certainly an established entity within the superyacht communications industry. Besides our office here in Florida, we have offices in France as well, and we're headquartered in Majorca, the point being is that we cover all of the Mediterranean, the US, as well as The Bahamas and Caribbean. So it has not been unheard of based upon an issue to helicopter somebody out to a boat kind of thing.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have not used the technical support. My experience initially with Kerio was dealing directly with Kerio and then at a certain point, they offloaded their distribution to a company called Lifeboat and GFI, and that has been a bit difficult. In my opinion, it's made things a bit harder.

If I need to get an answer to a question, I have to go through Lifeboat or GFI, and then ultimately they in turn have to get with Kerio. So it's created a middleman process. The case in point is that we have an order and the order just kind of kept going and there were no updates, there was no tracking, there was no nothing. I would go to Lifeboat and Lifeboat would say, "Well, we're trying to get a hold of Kerio and there was just a breakdown in communication."

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Kerio Control is something that's being added to most of the network of the boats that we deal with. We deal with a lot of boats that look fantastic on the outside, but on the inside as far as the nuts and bolts go, they are not well maintained or they have really old equipment. That's one of the things that we always deal with. One of the things I always talk to captains about when I go on a boat is I ask them, "What are the chances that the owner's going to come on board with a 10-year-old computer and a 10-year-old phone?" And he answers, "Zip to zilch." So I say "Well, your network's 10 years old." It's going to work based on what you have in the technology of anywhere from even five years ago compared to today. It's not just a matter of throwing a Kerio in and saying, "Everything's going to be fine." Typically, it's a component of a network upgrade to include switches and access points.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is straightforward for us now because we've done it for so long. The other side of it is that there haven't been a lot of changes per se. There have been tweaks. The consistency of the platform has pretty much stayed the same. So while they have optimized certain components of it, it's kind of like Microsoft Word. You could go back to a version of Microsoft Word 10 years ago and know exactly how to use it because everything's going to be in the same place. It's just an evolution of the platform.

It takes around an hour and a half to license and configure.

We have a uniform deployment process and then that's followed by adjustments based on the client's specific requirements. They may have more LAN connections than somebody else, or they may have less of a need for additional VLANs. It's on a case by case basis. But I would say 95% of everything that we do is standardized.

I'm not the one that actually implements it. Full disclosure, I order the device, I get the device, I license the device, I update the device and then at that point in time, I have one of the engineers come remotely into the unit and then they do the final configuration.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

On the licensing side, the way Kerio works, and this is what we have to tell boats, is that if you think that you're going to save some money one year by not licensing it and then next year, you're going to license it, you're going to end up paying for that back year. You're better off just keeping it up to date.

Boats are really like life. People want to spend money on things that are sexy, and software licensing isn't sexy. So that's one of the things that we have to go back and let them know that it's going to work as far as the basic functions go, but the features are not going to work and their security will be vulnerable.

There are no costs in addition to the standard licensing. 

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

Evaluating other solutions would be the responsibility of the CIO because everything that we do has to be agreed-upon on a standardized platform as we are the ones that are going to have to support it. We let any customers that we deal with that are possibly dealing with other brands know where our demarcation point of responsibility is because it's very much so once you touch it, you own it. If you go onto a boat and you touch one thing, you'll be getting a call for the next three weeks about it. It's an industry that you have to be very specific about what it is that you're doing and what it is that you're providing and supporting.

We have been made aware of boats that have had security breaches, but we were not engaged to support their network at that time. We may have just been only the satellite solution provider. It wasn't specifically Kerio Control, but the situation necessitated them to reevaluate their network and invest in their network rather than just have it as a passive source.

What other advice do I have?

We don't necessarily use failover protection. If you have a failover seamlessly set, the boat or the customer won't know that there's been a failure. We don't use the failover because we want the boat to understand if there's an issue with one of their LAN connections.

For example, if you have a cellular and a satellite connection, and you have both of them set to failover to one or the other, if the satellite connection fails over to the cellular connection, nobody on the boat is going to know that it's failed over. Without the failover, they can identify that there's a problem and then that can be addressed. But if it fails over, nobody is going to be aware that there was an issue and then there's nobody working on solving or trying to figure out what that issue is.

My advice would be to have a plan. Have a plan in place and make sure that you document everything that you do. Certainly, if you're talking about multiple deployments, you don't want to run into a situation, for instance, where you have three different IT people and each one of them is doing a different type of configuration. You want to have a policy in place for a standardized configuration. From a support perspective, as well as a usability perspective, make sure those are being addressed.

I would rate it about a seven out of ten. The only reason why I would give it that rating is because MyKerio can be a complicated tool if you don't know how to use it. 

I was at the Monaco Yacht Show and I got a phone call from an engineer on a boat. They were very angry with the service speed of their satellite. We have customers that pay anywhere from $2,500 to $40,000 a month for satellite service. In this particular case, they actually had to send a tender in. They had to take me out to the yacht and I got out to the yacht and I figured out exactly what happened.

As I was getting off the yacht, they were explaining to me how one of the crew members had worked with Kerio in the past. When I got onto the boat, somebody had set a QoS monitor to limit the crew network for the satellite connection to only 5% of the allotted bandwidth, but it wasn't just the crew, it was the entire vessel. So the entire vessel was limited through Kerio to 5% of the speed of their satellite. That problem or that issue did not arise as a Kerio issue. They said, "This is a satellite issue. We're having a problem with our satellite." So that's an example of, if somebody doesn't know what they're doing, they can have a pretty detrimental effect on the network.

The thing about Kerio is that there's not going to be a dummies book for how to use a Kerio Control. It's really designed to be operated and certainly configured by somebody who is in the IT industry. From the perspective of users, if you're the administrator, you can log into this and you have full access to everything. Whereas if you're "just the user," we're going to hide all of this other stuff from you and the only thing that you're going to be able to do is say that the owner network can use the satellite connection and the crew network can use the connection. 

I would like to see a very limited or dumbed down version for the average user. You could literally just do a couple of checkboxes and throttle everything on the entire network and nobody would necessarily be the wiser.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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